The Good Schools Guide is famed for its independence and uncompromising editorial stance. Their review of Glenalmond College, published March 2017, and extracts are available to read here...
One of the biggest changes since Elaine Logan (Warden) has arrived at Glenalmond has been ‘improving academic rigour and ambition’. This has been achieved by introducing The Learning Project – a big name for a radical restructuring of the way the children and the teachers are monitored and taught.
The idea is that ‘no-one is alone and everyone is supported’. Teachers now routinely observe each other’s lessons to spread good practice and help eliminate the bad and are coached and supported if improvements are needed.
Prep is now being monitored for all but upper sixth (one parent told us their child was thrilled by this development as they were actually getting work done). In addition, there are tutorials the help pupils develop core skills for learning including essay planning, revision strategies, mind-mapping, time management, literacy and numeracy foundation skills.
Education Scotland is recommending that they spread this good practice asap. Meanwhile, parents we spoke to felt that both the children and the teaching standards are beginning to reap benefits. ‘[My son] actually looks forward to his supervised study… incredible. He says Mrs Logan should be the next Prime Minister.’
’[The pupils] love Elaine Logan. She’s disciplined, fair and gets their vote every time.’ ‘They really like her. They respect her. She’s a real dynamo and gets things done.’
A significant proportion of the school is involved with the learning support department at some level. This ranges from extra time in exams all the way through to a reader and a scribe. There is a policy of free screening for all pupils who enter the school in second, third or fourth form.
The staff ratio is particularly good at 1:7 and class sizes rarely exceed 16. The bottom sets may have as few as six or seven pupils. They recruited heavily for new staff in 2016… and the results are new faces with enthusiasm and drive. Another school has commented that there seems to be a real buzz about the school and they are attracting some real talent to their ranks.
One of the major changes is a complete restructuring of the sports department so that it functions co-educationally ie boys’ and girls’ games are given equal billing.
Head of rugby, Graham Smith, who as a former Fife development coach brings new links to the rugby pathway system and possible international progression.
The sporting facilities… include a first class swimming pool and now an Olympic standard water-based hockey pitch, which has already hosted some international players.
They’re not the most amazing sporting facilities that you will come across but, as elsewhere in the school, the ambition seems to be big. There are also plans to make more of what is a truly fabulous outdoor location. There is a school golf course and the possibility of fishing on the river Almond… Duke of Edinburgh Awards are enthusiastically pursued, as are clay pigeon shooting, tennis, white water rafting, skiing. The activity programme is booted up further at the weekend, and at Cairnies, the newly created junior boys’ house (second and third form), there are compulsory activities so that they are kept busy.
Girls are being given a bigger slice of the pie and are being ‘promoted’ to the Quad. This is the Oxbridge-style area at the heart of the school, traditionally the site of three boys’ houses. Now one of them, Goodacre’s, is being made over to girls.
Cairnies… is being turned into a junior house for second and third form boys – increasing in numbers apparently due to more pupils arriving from destinations other than traditional prep schools.
Elaine Logan says that one of the USPs of the place is that all of the staff live on site, so the puplis get to see them in their civvies and leading a normal life. Relationships tend to be stronger because this ‘really is a full boarding school’.
…the sheer grandeur of the place both in architectural and scenic terms. Going down the drive on a warm summer’s day… or a crisp winter one with snow on the hills can be an uplifting experience.
…there is still a feeling of beautiful isolation which helps keep the worst offenders out of trouble, and if your child is sociable and likes the outdoors, they will probably form friendships to last a lifetime.
The school has now appointed a deputy head of pastoral care who oversees the eight housemasters/mistresses and there is far more exchanging of information so that nobody slips through the net. House staff and teachers meet weekly to discuss the pupils, especially any there are concerns about.
Discipline appears to have improved since the arrival of the new warden. Drugs have never really been an issue at the school.
There is no waiting list so entry is fairly straightforward at the moment… but with the new buzz around the place this may well change.
Around half to Russell Group universities including Oxbridge (two in 2016, and two vets) with a trickle to American universities.
Get in fast, Glenalmond is on the up and up. Inspirational is one of those over-used words but it really does seem to apply to the warden Elaine Logan. If they can continue to combine academic rigour and making use of their spectacular setting then Glenalmond is set for a cracking future over the next few years.
Come and see for yourself! Come and visit, meet the Warden, staff and pupils, and find out more about life at Glenalmond.